Notes From the Margins…

Get Your Trident On!

  • October 02, 2015
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We have known for some time that Jeremy Corbyn is a dangerous man, and the  Labour Party Conference has now revealed just how menacing he truly is.   For it is now clear  that we have a potential future prime minister who has moral scruples about using weapons of mass destruction,  and has specifically said that he can never imagine circumstances in which he would order a thermonuclear strike that would kill millions of men, women and children.

This statement has sent sent jaws dropping to the floor throughout the political establishment and the media.

That forensic interrogator of power Nick Robinson, the man who once stomped a anti war placard into the ground because someone was waving it during one of his live reports, has declared how shocked he and his colleagues were on hearing it.    Former CND protester Polly Toynbee has accused Corbyn of destroying his prime ministerial chances through his ‘Christ-like’ position on nuclear weapons.

Naturally Corbyn’s own shadow cabinet colleagues have worked themselves up into a paroxysm of indignation – the better to undermine his leadership and pave the way for his downfall.   Maria Eagle, Corbyn’s own defense secretary, has described his  comments as ‘unhelpful’.

I don’t know about you readers, but personally I find Corbyn’s position much worse than unhelpful.   I find it terrifying and deeply disturbing  to think that this man might have his finger on a button and he won’t even press it.  Because it’s not as if pressing buttons is difficult.  I press many of them myself everyday, on my new Samsung phone and kindle, on my electric kettle and toaster.

So I actually don’t see what the problem is in launching a few intercontinental ballistic missiles that could wipe out entire cities, and I want to know that we have a leader who could do it too if crunch came to crunch.

Of course I don’t want that crunch.  Who does?  As shadow business secretary Angela Eagle rightly argues, ‘I don”t think anyone in their right mind would want to get into a situation where it [the bomb] would be used. ‘

Eagle nevertheless insisted that ‘ if you do get to that situation you have to be prepared to use it.’

Tough, hard-headed talk.   And if we do ‘get into a situation’ when we might have to obliterate a few cities and their inhabitants,  I want to know that Labour can do it too.

I don’t want us to be led by some pinko like former Labour defense secretary David Owen, who once argued back in 1978 that ‘ a million Soviet dead would be adequate’ as an argument for scaling back Britain’s nuclear arsenal.

No, I want someone in charge like civil servant Michael Quinlan, who told Owen an effective deterrent required ‘options an order of magnitude higher than this’ of up to ten million dead, because the Soviet Union had a different ‘threshold of horror’ as a result of its WWII casualties.

Now that’s strategic thinking, and that’s what helps me sleep at night, and if you aren’t willing to come up with that outcome than you aren’t up to the Big Job and maybe you should become a Quaker or audition as a judge for Strictly Come Dancing.

And if we’re going to have a deterrent,  we need the best one we can get. That’s why I want to upgrade the Trident missile system.   I need to know that those submarines are out there, equipped with part-owned US missiles that are eight times more powerful than the bomb that landed on Hiroshima, prowling the high seas and protecting our national security.

I need to know that in the event that some rogue state or terrorist group turns the UK into a nuclear wasteland, then some lone Trident submarine commander out there on the high seas will open a last letter from a dead prime minister telling him to fire these missiles at whoever was responsible.

Because weapons like that are what holds civilization together.   They keep us safe and they keep the whole world safe.   And equally important, they keep us great.

After all, as Tony Blair once said about Trident, ‘the expense is huge and the utility non-existent in terms of military use,’ but giving it up would be ‘too big a downgrading of our status as a nation.’

So even though these weapons have a ‘non-existent’ military utility, they still enable us to punch above our weight.   Without them,  we might not be allowed to sit on the UN Security Council?   We might not deserve the great in Great Britain?

Without those bombs, readers,  we would be like Belgium or Denmark, and that can never happen.

So I don’t want some politician trying to act like Jesus.

I don’t want to know how many schools and hospitals  you could buy with the £100 billion that Trident renewal might cost.  I don’t care if that money could employ 150,000 nurses or pay the tuition fees for 4 million students.

I don’t want to hear from some traitorous sailor that safety procedures on the Trident submarine base are so dangerously lax that some lunatic could wander into one of them and set one off with Bluetooth.

So what if senior military officers have declared Trident ‘completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently face or are likely to face, particularly international terrorism’?

Because I know, just as the Labour right knows,  that we need these weapons and we deserve to have them.   That’s why  I was heartened  to know that Andy Burnham is prepared to resign over this issue, even though he couldn’t even bring himself to vote against the government’s latest welfare cuts.

That’s why I like to imagine Burnham riding a Trident missile on its way to obliterate Moscow or some other foreign megapolis, waving a cowboy hat and chanting ‘Come on Everton’, like Major ‘King’ Kong in Doctor Strangelove.


Dr. Strangelove - Riding the Bomb.png


Because that’s the kind of sensible, thoughtful politician who gives me comfort whenever I think of all the threats and all the unbridled evil that there is out there in this mad, mad world.

And as for that bearded man who says there is something wrong with all this, and suggests that perhaps we need to think again about the morality and the logic of mutually assured destruction and reexamine the whole concept of deterrence and security in the post-Cold War world, why that man gives me no comfort at all.

In fact he really gives me the shudders.

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  1. John Ward (The Slog)

    2nd Oct 2015 - 10:34 am

    Excellent. For all his blinkered ways on some issues, Corbyn is a breath of fresh air in a Parliament suffering from mass halitosis. Constitutionally, he is a long-overdue necessity; politically, he shows Labour up for the fat-headed Party it has been for so long.
    He is making people think again. Hurrah.

  2. Daniel Margrain

    3rd Oct 2015 - 5:29 pm
  3. Nigel Baldwin

    4th Oct 2015 - 8:06 am

    There’s another cost associated with Britain’s nuclear fleet as well. In Devonport, there are the hulks of redundant nuclear submarines, each lying there in a dangerous condition and not far from a primary school – because the MOD can’t come up with a plan for disposal of the radio active bits in them Despite the MOD’s bland assurances, the kids have to do drills to follow in case of a radiation leak, with stocks of potassium iodate tablets readily available. So if you want to see what really effective protest is like, just wait for the day when the Mums go on the march…

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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